I woke up at 6:00 today like I normally try to do, and spent like five minutes staring out the window at what seemed like a pretty beautiful morning, fighting the urge to go back to bed. “I don’t have to be at work until noon today” I say to myself, “surely this beautiful morning can wait”.
I’ve never regretted waking up early to take pictures, but it’s a visceral struggle to try to convince myself to walk out the door that early. I laid down on the couch, with a view of the window, thinking that if the urge to photograph is stronger than sleep, I’ll be up in a few minutes.
I woke up a few minutes before 7:00 and hit the road, bound for some random field about 20 miles away my map pointed me to.
High school vibes were strongly afoot, when I learned photography by wandering around the countryside taking pictures of ponds and interesting trees and the occasional fence. It was nice enough to smell the fresh air and walk around, be outside the city and so forth. I had a jar of coffee and my camera and it was a warming summer morning, so everything was decent.
O how I used to mock these photos! Relentlessly. It was pretty terrible. For how terrible it was, refer to my three month exegesis of Mr. Brightside and how I was terrible in regards to popular things. And look at this photo. It’s so lavish and meaningless- of course it can be enjoyed for a moment and then we move on.
When I used to drive around the countryside I pretty frequently stopped at churches. When I was in high school, I liked churches in a very detached and intellectual sense. I grew up in churches, they felt comfortable and familiar to me. They also had big parking lots that no one was really going to care that greatly if I parked in and walked around for a bit. The building were also usually pretty and nice to photograph.
My observations now aren’t so detached, and my interest in a church building is not so passing. However when I come across a little country church I still can’t help but end up back in that place when I was 17 and ripping around Rockingham County learning how to photograph, and how to think about the world.
I think the church building itself is the least important means of critiquing the life of a church body, the members and congregation. However, because my father is an architect, I do have a serious interest and respect for the creation of a space of worship as a manner of worship in and of itself. People criticize gothic cathedrals for their lavishness, criticizing their creation, and the money that could perhaps be used in a better way.
I’m reminded of the story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with a bottle of perfume equivalent to 11 months’ wages. The disciples get a lil upset, saying that perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor, which, of course is a good goal, seemingly. However, Jesus rebukes them, saying that Mary recognized the true priority before her, and saying that the poor will always be on earth, but He would not always be with them.
So in one sense, I can understand making a space that itself is in reverence to God- rendering one’s earthly belongings in sacrifice to God, even in the form of architecture. So, it’s not so cut and dry as saying “look at this lowly church, how wonderful” or “look at this ornate church, how absurd” or the converse of those statements. It is nice to just walk through those areas and recognize it as a place of worship, and a place where God’s people meet.
Of course I cannot help but realize the slippage, at times. Fallen as we are, there always is. But that’s a far longer discussion.